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Past time to get the International Driving Permit in the rear view mirror for North Americans

It's time for every state and province to get on board with using the international numbering format on driving licenses. When there are still large states and provinces holding out it ruins it for the rest of us. Once all American and Canadian licenses have this numbering format and look like an EU license, there's no reason for any European country to require an IDP anymore.

Most states and provinces have adopted the international numbering format but there are still some large holdouts. If you are live in one of these states or provinces please write your government representative. Small and less prosperous places like West Virginia and PEI are doing it.

New York
California
Michigan
Tennessee
Virginia
New Jersey
British Columbia
Alberta

Posted by
3652 posts

No, no, no, it's not a translation of anybody's license, One of the MANY misconceptions of what an IDP is, what it supposedly does, and why it is truly scammy when you give it a long look.

BTW Alaska is already compliant, and you probably didn't notice.

Posted by
3258 posts

Do you think that only Europe requires an IDP? To get rid of it, every country in the world would have to comply. How realistic do you think that is?

Posted by
3652 posts

Do you think that only Europe requires an IDP?

I'm not talking about other alphabet situations where there is actually something achieved by carrying one, although that's not what the title says. I notice Ontario is using the international system already.

Posted by
1105 posts

Are you talking about having consistent numbering for all states in the US or the use of an IDP outside North America. The IDP is a standardized translation of your US drivers license so it can make it simple for an official in a foreign country to quickly read and process. Not all law enforcement officers in foreign countries can speak English.

An International Driving Permit (IDP), often referred to as an international driving license, is a translation of a domestic driving license that allows the holder to drive a private motor vehicle in any country or jurisdiction that recognizes the document. The term International Driving Permit was first mentioned in the document prescribed in the International Convention relative to Motor Traffic that was signed at Paris in 1926, and is a translation of the French 'permis de conduire international', or 'international driving license'. The Paris treaty, and all subsequent, use the word 'permit' exclusively in relation to all kinds of driving license.

Posted by
5561 posts

If an IDP is required by law in any country that I visit (where I plan to, or might, drive), then I'll bring an IDP along. Even if everybody there speaks English, even if my license is perfectly understandable, and regardless of whether or not I think it's a dumb idea for them to require it.

There are plenty of laws in other countries that I think are stupid (and plenty of stupid laws at home, too). Still, when overseas, as a guest, I generally try to abide by those laws, even if I might think they're silly or wrong (I do make exceptions, carefully and discreetly, but those laws I break are usually about free speech issues and criticism of the ruling elite; I don't think the requirement for an IDP is a hill I'm willing to die on...).

It's a pretty minor task to get an IDP, the cost is pocket change when considering that you may need to present it at a time when a law enforcement officer or court judge is deciding your fate. When I'm looking to benefit from The Kindness Of Strangers, twenty bucks looks like really cheap insurance to me. YMMV.

FWIW I have had to hand over my Washington State driver's license and my IDP to cops in Japan and Italy, immediately after they had observed me clearly and blatantly violating traffic laws. In both cases, the cop let me off with just a warning, to my great relief. Maybe they would have even if I didn't have an IDP, but at the time I was very glad I had it with me.

Posted by
3652 posts

An International Driving Permit (IDP), often referred to as an international driving license, is a translation of a domestic driving license

There are a lot of sites (whose?) with similar verbiage that can easily be refuted.

Directions:

  1. Place driver license on a table at left.

  2. Place IDP on table at right.

  3. Leaf through IDP at right

  4. Note that it is not a translation of license at left.

Posted by
3652 posts

And if your look at an Alaska DL and ID Card they are the same design.

The Alaska ID doesn't have a line 9, which is an endorsement for driving.

The point of this is there's no reason we can't coordinate something simple like this internationally, and are often actually pretty close.

Posted by
2727 posts

Even if everybody there speaks English, even if my license is perfectly understandable, and regardless of whether or not I think it's a dumb idea for them to require it.

You are taking for granted that:

  1. Any cop in IDP-requiring countries know there are things like Rhode Island or Indiana (thanks Wikipedia) or Kazakhstan.
  2. Those who don't know what an US state actually is, are interested in learning by heart the names of 50 states and 1,000 sub-Asians countries (that change government and logo every two months).
  3. the above mentioned cops can distinguish a fake Rhode Island driving licence from a true one, because it's written in English. Not a bad claim for a language school: "Learn English, The magic language that sparks trust at first sight". I have bad news for you...

An IDP is a one document "to rule them all", an internationally agreed format that any uniformed orc can recognize.

there's no reason for any European country to require an IDP anymore.

Leaving aside local laws and the low ranking of US and Canada decisions with regard to hierarchy of sources in other countries. Spoiler alert: It's close to the bottom

Posted by
343 posts

Once all American and Canadian licenses have this numbering format and look like an EU license, there's no reason for any European country to require an IDP anymore.

The IDP extends to the whole world - only place its not recognized is the Cook Islands (google it). It won't be going away anytime soon - its nothing to do with format of your domestic licence - its to do with the translation..

Plus how does your local rental car firm feel about UAE license in Arabic? Bet they want an IDP for the translation!

Posted by
1015 posts

For folks looking to plunk down the far side of $10K for a trip to Antarctica, any time spent worrying about $20 to comply with another country's laws seems a waste. Then again, no IDP necessary for a trip way down south, so good news there...

Posted by
2564 posts

The real issue to discuss here is, why do individual states issue their own licenses? Why not one standard national template?

Posted by
5242 posts

I always thought the IDP was not a translation but a certification that your state-issued DL was official and valid. Someone at AAA in your home state looks at your DL and your face, then gives you an IDP with your picture so that any cop or rental agent in another country can be assured that you are actually a licensed driver where you live. You need to show your own DL as well as the IDP when asked.

I wish I still had one of my old IDPs to see exactly what it says. I think it just restates the info on my DL -- name, address, DOB, height/weight, corrective lenses, etc. And it identifies this info in multiple languages, which makes it appear to be a translation. But that's not its purpose. It's purpose is to tell that Italian or Kazakh cop that this card I'm showing him labeled "Washington" is an actual valid DL instead of a library card or a coffeeshop loyalty card.

I wouldn't drive overseas without one, whatever the local law might say or not say.

Posted by
743 posts

Another reason for an IDP…Years ago while driving alone after dark in rural Turkey, what appeared to be police pulled me over. They asked for my papers. It seemed odd, so I produced my IDP and pretended that was all I had. They walked off with the IDP, discussing. After about 5 minutes, they were still discussing and I was growing uneasy. So I put the car in gear and drove off at speed. Let them keep the IDP! They didn’t follow. At my hotel, they told me there was a gang in the area robbing drivers of their passports and licenses. Thank you IDP for saving me!

Posted by
171 posts

Forget it. We ain't doing it. The EU can match our style.

Sincerely,

California- 5th largest economy in the world.

Posted by
5617 posts

I do wish the IDP lasted longer than a single year. My state-issued driver license is good for 5 and in that time, AAA gets multiple payments for IDP’s, and for taking repeated photos - one to go in each new IDP, and one each year to go in their files. They must have a whole collection of shots of me through the years that I’ve rented cars on vacation. Maybe I should check with AAA to get my all-time travel scrapbook started.

Oh yeah, my IDP is dependent on the legible handwriting of the AAA staffer who fills out the booklet. Also, it would sure be nice if they were just a tad smaller, to fit better in my moneybelt!

Posted by
3652 posts

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but this topic veered off onto a pre-determined track not related to the topic.

I could dredge up the minutes and motions from the North American driver license design association which I have found online (not sure about the exact name, but it really exists and I have read them) and their efforts to bring all North American licenses into conformance with the Vienna Convention. But as you can see from the Alaska license above this group must exist, because the work is happening, licenses like Alaska are not becoming indistinguishable from EU licenses by accident.

EU police officers do not want words: note that the Norwegian license I linked above is practically wordless. The idea of the Vienna Convention is to replace nearly all the words on licenses with standard numbers where every number is defined in a certain way, 1 is surname, 3 is date of birth, etc., so there is no need for any language. Considering the EU I think that’s the clever way to go. North America should do the same, and is, except for the bigger state and province holdouts I listed above. Certainly the majority of states and provinces are well on their way to Vienna convention conformance.

The IDP is a 20th century artifact from a pre-standardization era. Its days are numbered. Already about half of European countries don’t require one of North Americans, and another quarter have laws that are never enforced against North Americans, leaving only about 25% iffy where there is a small chance of any use. Wouldn’t it be nice to make all the EU countries the same? Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to pack an extraneous item? Until every state and province is on board there’s no chance of that happening.

So the IDP is not a translation, it's not some courtesy we show to non-English speaking people, it's not a "way to show respect to the local culture," not any of that. The emotion some people place on those pages is kind of overwhelming to me.

I do wish the IDP lasted longer than a single year.

My understanding is that the treaty that established it restricts the age to 1 year, it's not up to AAA to set the time limit.

Posted by
1015 posts

OK, so I'll respond to your original post...

I live in one of the States that that you list that has not redone their licenses to the standards you mention. I would never write my government representative to change this because, and this is only my opinion, they have way more important things to deal with. For me, I would feel like I was being over-entitled asking the State to take up it's time making changes just to make my leisure travel minutely easier and less expensive.

But, like I said, that's just me.

Posted by
5617 posts

Colorado has changed the appearance of its driver license, then cgg he dinged it again, in just the past 5 years. Someone’s undertaken the task, without any input from me, or any other citizens, as far as I can tell. Maybe they have a bigger picture in mind, and maybe this is getting more uniformity, so that things like an IDP are not even suggested as being necessary. Simpler is better (and frankly, cheaper).

Posted by
929 posts

I don't think the OP is being arrogant. He clearly says that the US should fall in line with EU license requirements so that there is a standard format for driver's licenses - not the other way around. And it sounds like this change would benefit everyone - not just American tourists. For example, it would make it easier on police in other countries, so they do not have to depend on an IDP (which many travelers do not get anyway). And keep in mind that not all countries in Europe require an IDP, so this makes it more easier and more consistent for all.

Passports are consistent throughout the world, with minor design differences. Why shouldn't driver's licenses be?

Posted by
3652 posts

Reminder that licenses that follow the international format are virtually language free. That is what EU/EA police officers want, and rental car agencies. Being a good international citizen and a respectful visitor means bringing one of those. Bringing a non-conforming license with a companion IDP is less respectful of the local culture.

What you are paying for when getting an IDP is a cultural interpretation of a non-standard format license, not a translation. (I am using a California license as an example of a non-standard license for this example, Washington or Ontario wouldn’t have this degree of non-conformance from international standards.)

https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2F1.bp.blogspot.com%2F-IwDBIOvGrsc%2FX08ICVFsFkI%2FAAAAAAAAA5Y%2FqHUahwzHoZAQBI8e3CnmD_HWULcBkTD0QCLcBGAsYHQ%2Fs1600%2FCalifornia%252BDrivers%252BLicense%252BTemplate%252BPSD%252BNew%252B2020.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

Pretend I am the IDP filler outer at AAA. Starting with filling in the surname, line 1:

I can figure out (actually this is an odd format even for me) that the surname is what is marked LN. So when filling out the IDP I would transfer “Hogan” to line 1.

For line 2 I can see that whatever names are listed as FN would go here. To fill out line 3 I would find the letters DOB and fill in that date for line 3. And so on, I am not translating anything, but am interpreting fields culturally. The rub comes for line 9, the driving endorsements, since these systems vary by state or groups of state. It says Class C, so I would cross reference what California defines as Class C with the equivalent on the international classification list and fill that on line 9. As you can see, there’s nothing here that cannot be provided on the license at the time of issue.

I see the requirement to bring an IDP as being a fine or penalty for not living in a jurisdiction that uses the international format. And even if you live in a state or province that very closely matches this format, the fact not you live in a country where many jurisdictions don’t even try to match the international standard ruins it for you.

they have way more important things to deal with.

But the license is redesigned regularly anyway. It isn't work that is not already scheduled to be done. Just add it to the design contract when the time comes, it won't cost any more.

Posted by
5617 posts

you live in a country where many jurisdictions don’t even try to match the international standard ruins it for you

Unfortunately, it’s not just driving documentation where this has become a concern

Posted by
5617 posts

Oh, and Hayden Hogan’s license, in the link provided by Tom_MN, expired several months ago. Has California possibly changed their format recently, or are they still using what they were using 11 years ago?

Do any states now not also contain an embedded “chip,” which seems to have become another element of I.D. and other official documentation?

Posted by
186 posts

“ Being a good international citizen and a respectful visitor means bringing one of those. Bringing a non-conforming license with a companion IDP is less respectful of the local culture.”
??? A couple of years ago I went to Australia and New Zealand. I rented multiple cars in both countries. In both countries the car rental companies asked to see my IDP in addition to my Dutch drivers license. At the time I thought the car rental companies were perfectly happy with me showing both my Dutch drivers license and my IDP. But now I understand that I was being disrespectful by showing them my Dutch license and my IDP? How could I have prevented being disrespectful? Should I have abandoned the idea of renting a car altogether?

Posted by
3652 posts

Bottomline: Get one or not

The point of the topic is that there is no bottom line, there is an international process evolving toward a standardized license that anyone can read, anywhere. New Zealand is on the way but Australia doesn't appear to have started the process.